Plan your design training strategy
There are (finally) young people joining the PCB design and engineering community. We are happy to see their youthful faces at trade shows and conferences. But if you’re a fresh graduate working your first “real” job, you might be wondering: how do I set up an education and training plan for my career in PCB design? What is my next step?
We asked Eric Bogatin to give his opinion. Eric has a unique perspective: He is a seasoned signal integrity instructor, as well as a professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In this interview, Eric discusses some of his planning strategies and the need for an electrical engineering degree in the world of PCB design.
Andy Shaughnessy: Eric, how do you help your students plan their educational goals in middle school?
Eric Bogatin: This is an important question. It’s never too early to start thinking about your career goals, whether working in the industry or simply as a student. If a student is not 100% clear and dedicated to a particular path, I encourage them to take the opportunity as an undergraduate student to experiment and explore topics. They need to get enough experience to understand what they like: design, measurement, software, simulation, circuits, fields, systems design, working with people, working behind a computer, teaching or something else.
Once they have an idea of what they really like and a plan, we select courses to help support that path. Due to the core courses that most EE students must take, there is not much flexibility, but there are usually four or five elective courses that a student can choose.
Shaughnessy: What criteria should designers keep in mind when assessing their industry training needs?
Bogatin: You need a balance between the fundamentals and the practical experience of applying those principles. Taking online classes is fine, but plan to get kits so you can actually build and measure circuits. Taking courses in which you gain experience designing and building reference designs will help build your confidence.
Shaughnessy: What would you advise PCB designers who want to set up their own strategic learning plans?
Bogatin: If you want to be a PCB designer, rather than a circuit designer and hardware designer, you probably don’t need a BSEE degree. All you need is some experience in electronics and some training in designing and building some boards to get started. But if you’re going to be a hardware engineer and take responsibility for circuit design and board design, then a BSEE and lots of hands-on experience designing and building circuits are important. You can’t get too much experience building working circuits in a solderless breadboard to get experience debugging and characterizing circuits.
To read the full conversation, which appeared in the March 2022 issue of Design007 magazine, click here.